​Meet the Candidates: Monteagle City Council

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of interviews with some of the local candidates running for office. In alphabetical order, here are the first five candidates for the alderperson seats in Monteagle. The next five candidates will be in the Oct. 2, 2020 issue.

Ten candidates are vying for the four open alderperson seats on the Monteagle City Council. The candidates addressed the following questions: How long have you lived in Monteagle? What special qualifications or past experience will you bring to the council? Why do you want to serve on the Monteagle City Council? Read on to learn about the candidates.

Jessica Blalock is a 17-year citizen of Monteagle. Blalock is running for a second-term as alderwoman. Her motto in serving on the council is “Our children, our future.” She is the mother of two young boys who attend Monteagle Elementary School. Her focus in her first term was to bring back and strengthen youth events and structures. “Harton Park was let go and condemned by the state,” she said. “Monteagle baseball field was forgotten.” Harton Park and the ball field were her priorities as alderwoman, and she ushered in renovation of both. Heading up Parks and Recreation, she also oversaw the Easter Egg Hunt, Movies in the Park, Community Yard Sale, holiday parades, and ball season. “With your vote I hope to have two more years to work on grants and donations to renovate Hannah Pickett Park and much more. Our children are our future.”

Jessica Favaloro and her husband often vacationed on the mountain and moved to Monteagle from New Orleans in 2012. During her career as an internal medicine physician, Favaloro held professional leadership roles in the medical and health insurance fields, as well as in church organizations. “The people of Monteagle deserve better than they are getting,” Favaloro said. She expressed dismay about the police and fire chief being dismissed and policemen and firemen resigning, and the recent issue of unexplained zoning changes. “I want to work to make things better,” Favaloro said. She is an ardent supporter of the Mountain Goat Trail and sees it as a vehicle for boosting tourism and revenue. She would also like to work to develop better recycling options in Monteagle. Summing up, Favaloro said, “Everybody wants the same thing—the town’s finances being in order, accountability, and things being taken care of.”

Ken Gipson moved to Monteagle from the Keith’s Cove community in Cowan 11years ago. Gipson’s wife is from Monteagle. “I love this community,” he said. Gipson is no stranger to leadership roles. He served as the assistant Business Agent for the Teamsters Union at Arnold Engineering Development Center for 25 years. Gipson is still employed at AEDC where he has worked for 38 years. He is also a retired National Guardsman, with 25 years of service to his country. Gipson is running for a second term as alderman. “I enjoy doing it. I have only missed one meeting in four years. We have a lot of roads we need to get paved and fixed, ditches that need fixed, and infrastructure we need to keep up. I’d like to see us go forward and prosper. It’s a beautiful place, and I’d like to keep it that way. I’d appreciate everyone’s vote.”

Kelly Layne has lived in Monteagle all his life. His first job was as radio dispatcher for the Monteagle Police Department. Layne worked in various capacities for Monteagle for over 20 years, primarily for the police and fire departments. He served several times as fire chief. “My main priority is supporting the fire and police departments,” Layne said. “A lot of folks don’t know what the fire department has to go through to get the equipment they need.” Layne stressed the importance of local support. “I was young when I started. Chief David Green with the Sewanee Fire Department helped me keep my fire department going.” Layne currently works as the Chief Security Officer for the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly. “Our city needs to be for the home people,” Layne said. “It doesn’t need to expand too much into tourism in my opinion. I’m a hometown boy.”

Janet Miller-Schmidt has lived in Monteagle since 2015. She and her husband bought property here in 2006 and built a home in 2008. As a full-time resident, she immediately got involved and began attending council meetings. “That’s just my MO,” Miller-Schmidt said. “I’m not a politician, but I am a natural leader, I suppose.” In Louisiana where Miller-Schmidt lived previously, she served as president of the state PEO chapter, the oldest women’s organization in America providing college scholarships to women, and as commodore of the Gulf Yachting Association. She volunteers regularly at Morton Memorial Church and the Monteagle-Sewanee Rotary. “There are things in our town that need some TLC,” Miller-Schmidt said. She’d like to see a long-term strategic plan for police and fire protection and water resources. “I understand the need to work as a team. I want to be part of leading Monteagle into the future.”

The next five candidates, in alphabetical order, will be in the Oct. 2, 2020 issue of the Messenger. They are Jeffery Oneal, Dorraine Parmley, Ron Terrill, Jodean Wade and Nate Wilson.